Prototypical

Author:
Publish date:

I’ve never made a full-sized, functional prototype before. Until now.

Some woodworkers always make a full prototype of new designs before tackling the “real” project, but I never have. Oh, sure, for some past projects I’ve created cardboard prototypes of furniture and other things, miniature mockups of what I want to build, and the occasional full-size wooden component to tweak its shape or whatever. But I’m more likely to just start the real project and design-as-I-go.

But for a current rolling task light for a magazine article, I needed to find not only the optimal working dimensions, but test and tweak a couple articulating joints. I could only do that with a life-sized prototype.

AJBLOG-980 image

Doing this, I discovered a few important things. First, there’s no way I could have gotten the articulation or size just right without doing the prototype. Yeah, a cardboard one would have partly accomplished this, but it wouldn’t have given me the opportunity to test things like balance and center-of-gravity for the final project. And being able to put the full-size prototype in various positions and locations, I quickly realized some dimensions need reworking – the upper articulated arm is too long, for example, so I still have work to do.

Finally, making the prototype was a lot of fun. There’s a certain freedom in being able to re-cut, re-attach and re-configure things on a model that’s as close as you can get to the real thing with no worry of ruining anything. (Which can happen with my design-as-I-go approach.) It’s all made of scrap so I could cut it, mark on it, do anything I wanted to it. No need to even attach the wheels; small blocks of the same height are fine for testing.

Wish I’d learned all this years ago, but I’m glad I have now. I can guarantee I’ll be doing this more frequently from now on.

Related Articles

Wood I, or wooden I

I’ve never stated before that there’s not a species of wood I won’t work with. Well, I take it back.

Plans for a planer

Handheld planers are very useful if you have the need. Apparently, I’ve never had the need. Till now, that is.

Regal remnant

I’ve stated categorically before that there’s no such thing as scrap. Here’s proof.

We must be doing fine

I’ve stumbled across an economic indicator that analysts and experts never mention. And if the indicator is accurate, the economy must be doing well.

Never have I ever

There are a lot of extremely common woodworking tasks and techniques. But some, no matter how common, are things I’ve never done.

Tool tryout

It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while I try a tool I’ve never used before. This time, it was a pneumatic sander.

A stain on my record

I’ve long maintained that stain is a pain. I now realize that kind of thinking was, well, inane.

Healthy fear

I’ve worked with some machines for decades, and while I’ve grown confident in their use, I’ve never grown comfortable with some of them.

Bane of the band saw

I’ve talked before about how much I hate changing band saw blades. Guess what? I’m talking about it again.